When was the last time you were enchanted? Wide-eyed and delighted by something you had created? Whether a bright, fresh meal or an intricately layered painting, creating is hard wired into who we are as human beings. Everyday at The Village Potters, I am able to create beautifully and wildly, and experience childlike delight. Sure, there are times when my skills are not where I want them to be and my pots have certain imperfections that I wish were not there. But most of the time clay makes me feel excited, mesmerized, enamored, lit up. The thrill of a long awaited piece coming from the kiln is one of pure Christmas morning joy. In that moment I am instantly transported to a place of wonder and awe, running to show anyone who is willing to take in my new creation.
During the month of April a group of ISM students, resident potters, and I have been reading and exploring Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book, “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.” In the Fall I was able to attend a book event with the author that was sponsored by our local independent bookstore. I had read two of Liz’s other books and was drawn in by the variety of subject matter and authenticity of her writing (that’s right, she and I are on a first name basis). I was struck during her presentation at the way she spoke about creativity: the simultaneous ease and tension that exist when in the middle of a creative endeavor. She somehow articulated exactly what I experience while creating, highlighting the elation as well as the fear and confusion that can halt the process. When I finally worked up the courage to attempt this book, I had the sense that I didn’t want to explore it alone; I wanted to discuss it with a group of individuals actively pursuing their creative lives.
The table of contents drew me in instantly with sections entitled Courage, Permission, Persistence, and Divinity. At seeing these bold words, I furiously wrote down what each meant to me before even opening the first page. At our first book gathering I was struck with the intensely personal nature of the messages that each person gleaned from the first sections of the book. Each individual had been struck by something different than all of the others, highlighting the complexity of creativity and the depth of Liz Gilbert’s writing. The commonalities were evident as well: we are all exploring our creativity, figuring out how to acknowledge our prohibitive thoughts without letting them take control. We are all learning to take risks and acknowledge that this is not always an easy path, but it is certainly worthwhile. As our group continues to explore the book, I leave you with an excerpt and my personal reflection question, “What would you create if your fear suddenly vanished?”
“It isn’t always comfortable or easy-carrying your fear around with you on your great and ambitious road trip, I mean-but it’s always worth it, because if you can’t learn to travel comfortably alongside your fear, then you’ll never be able to go anywhere interesting or do anything interesting.
And that would be a pity, because your life is short and rare and amazing and miraculous, and you want to do really interesting things and make really interesting things while you’re still here. I know that’s what you want for yourself, because that’s what I want for myself, too.
It’s what we all want.
And you have treasures hidden within you-extraordinary treasures- and so do I, and so does everyone around us. And bringing those treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small (Gilbert 26-7).”
Gilbert, E. (2015). Big Magic: Creative living beyond fear. New York: Riverhead Books.